Odyssey 6: 160-169

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Bart
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Odyssey 6: 160-169

Post by Bart » Thu Oct 25, 2018 6:54 pm

Odysseus adressess Nausicaa and compares the awe he feels when meeting her to the awe he felt when seeing a certain palm tree on Delos:

οὐ γάρ πω τοιοῦτον ἴδον βροτὸν ὀφθαλμοῖσιν,
οὔτ᾽ ἄνδρ᾽ οὔτε γυναῖκα: σέβας μ᾽ ἔχει εἰσορόωντα.
Δήλῳ δή ποτε τοῖον Ἀπόλλωνος παρὰ βωμῷ
φοίνικος νέον ἔρνος ἀνερχόμενον ἐνόησα:
ἦλθον γὰρ καὶ κεῖσε, πολὺς δέ μοι ἕσπετο λαός,
τὴν ὁδὸν ᾗ δὴ μέλλεν ἐμοὶ κακὰ κήδε᾽ ἔσεσθαι.
ὣς δ᾽ αὔτως καὶ κεῖνο ἰδὼν ἐτεθήπεα θυμῷ
δήν, ἐπεὶ οὔ πω τοῖον ἀνήλυθεν ἐκ δόρυ γαίης,
ὡς σέ, γύναι, ἄγαμαί τε τέθηπά τε, δείδια δ᾽ αἰνῶς
γούνων ἅψασθαι:

It's a strange comparison at first sight. What's so special about this tree that it inspires such σέβας? Is it just the fact that it grows in holy ground, next to an altar, or is there something special about palm trees?

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Re: Odyssey 6: 160-169

Post by Hylander » Thu Oct 25, 2018 7:51 pm

This is the palm tree on Delos under which Leto gave birth to Apollo.

Hymn to the Delian Apollo, 115 ff.:

εὖτ᾽ ἐπὶ Δήλου ἔβαινε μογοστόκος Εἰλείθυια,
δὴ τότε τὴν [Leto] τόκος εἷλε, μενοίνησεν δὲ τεκέσθαι.
ἀμφὶ δὲ φοίνικι βάλε πήχεε, γοῦνα δ᾽ ἔρεισε
λειμῶνι μαλακῷ: μείδησε δὲ γαῖ᾽ ὑπένερθεν:
ἐκ δ᾽ ἔθορε πρὸ φόωσδε: θεαὶ δ᾽ ὀλόλυξαν ἅπασαι.

The beginning of Callimachus' Hymn to Apollo -- the setting is Delos:

οἷον ὁ τὠπόλλωνος ἐσείσατο δάφνινος ὅρπηξ,
οἷα δ᾽ ὅλον τὸ μέλαθρον: ἑκάς, ἑκὰς ὅστις ἀλιτρός.
καὶ δή που τὰ θύρετρα καλῷ ποδὶ Φοῖβος ἀράσσει:
οὐχ ὁράᾳς; ἐπένευσεν ὁ Δήλιος ἡδύ τι φοῖνιξ
ἐξαπίνης, ὁ δὲ κύκνος ἐν ἠέρι καλὸν ἀείδει.

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Re: Odyssey 6: 160-169

Post by Bart » Fri Oct 26, 2018 7:00 am

Ça explique. Thanks. But wouldn't an old, venerable tree in that case be more logical? Or is the point that the tree is forever young?

Thanks too for the quotes. I knew the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, but the one by Callimachus is new to me and looks very interesting.

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Re: Odyssey 6: 160-169

Post by Hylander » Fri Oct 26, 2018 2:06 pm

The point of comparison is the reverence and awe that Odysseus feels at the sight of Nausicaa, as he felt at the sight of the palm tree. But the association with Leto, I think, evokes something more: Nausicaa is at the threshold of maturity and will soon pass through marriage to childbirth.

Unless, of course, she is doomed to be crushed by a huge cataclysm engineered by Poseidon, along with the rest of the Phaeacians, a possibility that's left dangling after Odysseus is transported to Ithaca.

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Re: Odyssey 6: 160-169

Post by Bart » Sat Oct 27, 2018 8:54 am

Yes, about the comparison. My somewhat prosaic point was that if it is indeed the very tree under which Leto gave birth to Apollo, you would expect it to be an ancient specimen since this event happened supposedly many generations before Odysseus set eyes on it.

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Re: Odyssey 6: 160-169

Post by Paul Derouda » Sat Oct 27, 2018 1:48 pm

The connection to the tree under which Leto gave birth seems obvious, but surely the poem doesn't mean to imply that Odysseus is older than Apollo and Artemis? He can't mean the same actual tree, I mean. I'd rather think that at the poem's time there would have been some old sacred palm tree at a cult site in Delos (probably where Apollo was allegedly born), which would have been young in Odysseus' time, and this tree would have been considered a direct descendent of the first tree.

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Re: Odyssey 6: 160-169

Post by Hylander » Sat Oct 27, 2018 2:48 pm

I think there was always a palm tree at the site on Delos, and it was probably believed to be the original tree by those who came to worship at the shrine, rightly or wrongly (well, wrongly, if, unlike me, you don't believe the myth). That's why Odysseus feels religious awe at the the sight, and Nausicaa's beauty, poised right on the edge between adolescence and maturity, evokes the same emotional reaction.

But I think it's too literalistic to question whether the tree invoked in this passage could be the original tree that Leto clasped in giving birth to Apollo or a later one. Even though Leto isn't mentioned, I think the association with her would be clear -- the palm tree legend would have been present in the minds of the Odyssey's audience or readership -- and the reverence and awe Odysseus feels at the sight of the tree, to my mind, leaves no doubt.

Engaging with the Odyssey, like any work of fiction, requires a willing suspension of disbelief.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspension_of_disbelief

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